The Blizzard of 1888

Exchange corner, Main and State (now Charter Oak Ave.) Streets, Hartford, CT. All photos WHS collections 1963.46.1, gift of Ruth Curtis.

In a previous article, we mentioned that lifelong Windsor resident David J. Ellsworth (1840-1932) wrote in one of his diaries about his experience during the Blizzard of 1888. The following is an account he gave at a Windsor Historical Society meeting in November 1922, based on that diary entry and his memories of the blizzard.

This was the only really great snowstorm that can properly be designated as a blizzard that has occurred in my lifetime. I was 48 years of age at the time and so have it well in remembrance. It commenced snowing on Sunday night, March 11, and snowed all day Monday with a strong wind.

The first train to get stalled was at 2 PM that afternoon, Conductor Stone’s short train from Hartford, CT, to Springfield, MA. His train became stalled in the drifts nearly opposite our home in back of L.A. Parons’ land where the railroad is a cut several feet lower than the adjoining land. I never knew just how or when the train got away. Conductor Stone was one of our favorite conductors. He was the father of our James Stone and had that train for many years. He dropped down and died in his boots in the depot in Springfield.

Original caption on reverse of photo: “Coming out of rock cut west of Winstead after being stalled – knocking photographer sideways”.

I have the following entry in my diary for Tuesday, March 13: “The greatest snowstorm of the century. Wind blowing almost a gale, snow drifting in roads and around building as never seen before. All travel on railroads stopped and no moving on highways. Terrible in New York state. Mercury 10 to 15 degrees below zero.

It was snowing again on Wednesday until 11 AM. Up at the William Harvey place the snow was from six to eight feet deep. I wish to avoid exaggeration, but I helped to a deal of digging at that point. The wind and snow had an [un-]obstructed sweep across the low lands at the west which accounts for its great depth.

 

Corps of men and boys are shoveling the sidewalks in Hartford after the Blizzard of 1888. This view shows Main Street looking south from Mulberry Street (present day block between Buckingham St. and Park St.).

Quite a number of us were employed by the town in the work of shoveling out the road. I did quite a deal of voluntary work but never made out a bill against the town. I never regretted it. So many have had their fingers in the treasury of the town drawing big pay for the services rendered.

My delivery of the Windsor Creamery butter to private customers in Hartford had been going on for a trifle over a year. For my Tuesday route of that week, I did not get to the Creamery with a team until Thursday and then took a train with two hand boxes of butter.

Teams of men and horses carted the snow on sleighs to the end of Trumbull Street and dumped the snow into the Connecticut River.

The depot at Hartford have been town down, and the track and temporary depot was on the east side of Union Place just north of Allyn Street. The next day I drove to Hartford with a pair of horses and a boy with me to hold the team, but I got only as far west as Summer Street on Collins Street and did a deal of walking in various directions. The piles of snow and trenches in the center of the city were a great sight, and I saw the tunnel on Clinton Street.

Such a storm and experiences are only once in a life time, and I do not think anyone desires a repetition of it. I certainly do not.

2018-01-27T15:49:45+00:00